Microsoft Bob

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share some tips and tricks.

Be sure to check out my non-technical blog at www.bobsbasement.net.

Month List

Cleaning Up Your Windows System When QuickTime Has Screwed Up Your Media Settings

So here's the deal: I don't use anything from Apple. I have no iPod, no iPhone, no Mac, etc. I buy all of my MP3s through Xbox Music and Amazon. :-] Because of this, I have had no real need to install iTunes or QuickTime in years.

But unfortunately it seemed that I had to install either iTunes or QuickTime at one time or other, mainly because some of my digital cameras recorded video in QuickTime *.MOV format. But over the years I learned to detest both iTunes and QuickTime because of the undesirable ways in which they modified my system; both iTunes and QuickTime would remap all of media settings to open in their @#$% player, which I didn't really want in the first place.

Now that Windows supports the *.MOV format natively, and I can easily convert *.MOV files into something infinitely more useful and universal like *.MP4 format, I really never see the need for installing either iTunes or QuickTime.

However, just the other day I installed a new video editor (which shall remain nameless) and it quietly installed QuickTime on my system. I presume that this was to make it easier to import files in *.MOV format into the video editor, but I was pretty upset when I discovered that QuickTime had been installed. What's more, I was angry when I discovered that QuickTime had once again messed up all of my media settings.

In all of this misery is one saving grace: QuickTime has the decency to preserve your original settings. I am assuming that the backups are for when you uninstall QuickTime and attempt to reclaim your system from being hijacked by Apple, but just the same - that little nicety allowed me to fix my system with a little bit of scripting.

So without further introduction - first the script, and then the explanation:

Const HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT = &H80000000
Const strQuickTimeBAK = "QuickTime.bak"

Set objRegistry = GetObject("winmgmts:" & _
  "{impersonationLevel=impersonate}" & _
  "!\\.\root\default:StdRegProv")
 
objRegistry.EnumKey HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, "", arrSubKeys

For Each objSubkey in arrSubKeys
  If Len(objSubkey)>2 Then
    If Left(objSubkey,1)="." Then
      objRegistry.EnumValues HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, _
        objSubkey, arrEntryNames, arrValueTypes
      If IsArray(arrEntryNames) Then
        For i = 0 To UBound(arrEntryNames)
          If StrComp(arrEntryNames(i), strQuickTimeBAK, vbTextCompare)=0 Then
            intReturnValue = objRegistry.GetStringValue( _
              HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, objSubkey, strQuickTimeBAK, strEntryValue)
            If intReturnValue = 0 Then
              intReturnValue = objRegistry.SetStringValue( _
                HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, objSubkey, "", strEntryValue)
            End If
          End If
        Next
      End If
    End If
  End If
Next

Here's what this script does: first the script enumerates all of the keys under HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT and looks for file extension mappings, then it looks for mappings which have been modified and backed up by QuickTime. When it locates file extensions which have been modified, it copies the value which was backed up into the default location where it belongs.

All-in-all, it's a pretty straight-forward script, but it sucks that I had to write it.

Posted: Apr 11 2014, 00:31 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Using ASX Files with Windows Media Center

Like a lot of Windows geeks and fanboys, I use Windows Media Center on a Windows 7 system as my Digital Video Recorder (DVR) and media library. My system consists of a Dell GX270 computer with a ZOTAC NVIDIA GeForce GT610 video card, and it uses an InfiniTV 6 ETH tuner to receive cable signals. This setup has served us faithfully for years, and it is the center piece of our home entertainment system. If you're not familiar with Windows Media Center, that's because it's a rather hideously under-advertised feature of Windows. Just the same, here is an official Microsoft teaser for it:

But I've done a few extra things with my Windows Media Center that are a little beyond the norm, and one of the biggest items that I spent a considerable amount of time and effort digitizing my entire collection of DVD and Blu-ray discs as MP4 files, and I store them on a Thecus NAS that's on my home network which I use for media libraries on my Windows Media Center. This allows me to have all of my movies available at all times, and I can categorize them into folders which show up under the "Videos" link on the Windows Media Center menu.

That being said, there's a cool trick that I've been using to help customize some of my movies. Some of the movies that I have encoded have some material that I'd like to cut out, (like excessive opening credits and lengthy intermissions), but I don't want to edit and re-encode each MP4 file. Fortunately, Windows Media Center supports Advanced Stream Redirector (ASX) files, which allows me to customize what parts of a video are seen without having to edit the actual video.

Here's a perfect example: I recently purchased the 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition of Lawrence of Arabia on Blu-ray. The film is one of my favorites, and this reissue on Blu-ray is phenomenal. That being said, the movie begins with a little over four minutes of a blank screen while the musical overture plays. In addition, there is an additional eight minutes of a blank screen while the music for intermission is played. This is obviously less than desirable, so I created an ASX file which skips the opening overture and intermission.

By way of explanation, ASX files are XML files which define a playlist for media types, which can be any supported audio or video media. The individual entries can define various metadata about each media file, and thankfully can be used to specify which parts of a media file will be played.

With that in mind, here's what the ASX file that I created for Lawrence of Arabia looks like:

<ASX VERSION="3.0">
  <!-- Define the title for the movie. -->
  <TITLE>Lawrence Of Arabia</TITLE>
  <!-- Specify the movie's author. -->
  <AUTHOR>Columbia Pictures</AUTHOR>
  <!-- List the copyright for the movie. -->
  <COPYRIGHT>1962 Horizon Pictures (GB)</COPYRIGHT>
  <ENTRY>
    <!-- Define the video file for this entry. -->
    <REF HREF="Lawrence Of Arabia.mp4" />
    <!-- Define the start time for this entry. -->
    <STARTTIME VALUE="00:04:17.0"/>
    <!-- Define the duration for this entry. -->
    <DURATION VALUE="02:15:07.0"/>
  </ENTRY>
  <ENTRY>
    <!-- Define the video file for this entry. -->
    <REF HREF="Lawrence Of Arabia.mp4" />
    <!-- Define the start time for this entry. -->
    <STARTTIME VALUE="02:23:38.0"/>
  </ENTRY>
</ASX>

The XML comments explain what each of the lines in the file is configuring, and it should be straight-forward. But I would like to describe a few additional details:

  • Individual media entries are obviously defined in a collection of <ENTRY> elements, and in this example I have defined two entries:
    • The first entry defines a <STARTTIME> and <DURATION> which skip over the overture and play up to the intermission.
    • The second entry defines a <STARTTIME> which starts after the intermission and plays through the end of the movie.
  • The other metadata in the file - like the <AUTHOR> and <COPYRIGHT> - is just for me. That information is optional, but I like to include it.

There are several other pieces of metadata which can be configured, and a list of those are defined in the Windows Media Metafile Elements Reference and ASX Elements Reference.

Posted: Feb 16 2014, 00:30 by Bob | Comments (0)
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The New Look for IIS.NET

Following up on today's public release of Microsoft Windows Server 2012 and Internet Information Services 8.0, you'll notice some big changes on the IIS.net website.

Over the past few months, we've been working hard with several partners to roll out a brand-new design for the IIS.net website that resembles more closely the look and feel of our websites for Microsoft Azure, Windows Server 2012, and Visual Studio 2012.

Let us know what you think!

Posted: Sep 04 2012, 17:52 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Windows Server 2012 and IIS 8 are now available!

Microsoft has just released Windows Server 2012! You can find out more about this release on the Official Windows Server 2012 Launch Website (http://www.windows-server-launch.com).

In tandem with the release of Windows Server 2012, the IIS team is happy to announce the general availability of Internet Information Services 8.0 This new version of IIS offers a wealth of new features and improvements, and here are just a few of the enhancements that you can expect in IIS 8.0: Application Initialization, Dynamic IP Address Restrictions, Centralized SSL Certificate Store, CPU Throttling, FTP Logon Attempt Restrictions, Server Name Indication (SNI) Support, Improved SSL and Configuration Scalability, support for Multicore Scaling on NUMA Hardware, and more! Additional information about IIS 8.0 is available in the "What's New in IIS 8.0 for Windows 8?" web page.

If you'd like to try IIS 8.0 for yourself, you can download the evaluation version and start experimenting today!

Note: This blog was originally posted at http://blogs.msdn.com/robert_mcmurray/

Posted: Sep 04 2012, 03:58 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Video: What's New with Internet Information Services (IIS) 8: Performance, Scalability, and Security Features

The folks in the TechEd group have uploaded the video from my "What's New with Internet Information Services (IIS) 8: Performance, Scalability, and Security Features" presentation to YouTube, so you can view the video online.

You can also download the slides and the WMV/MP4 for my presentation at the following URL:

http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/NorthAmerica/2012/WSV332

One quick side note: around 38:55 during the video, I had just asked the audience if anyone had used the IIS Configuration Editor, when a tremendous thunderclap resounded outside - this prompted a great laugh from audience members. After the presentation had ended, a couple people came up and jokingly asked how I had managed to stage that so well.

Smile

Posted: Sep 01 2012, 14:59 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Why I Won't Buy Another HP Computer

First of all, I have to point out that I have a few friends that work for Hewlett-Packard, so I have to apologize up front for what I'm about to write in this blog. But I just had such a horrible customer support experience with HP that I won't buy from them again.

Why I Bought an HP Computer

I have nothing against HP computers; for several years I used two beefy dual-CPU HP/Compaq ProLiant servers for my web hosting machines. (I loved those computers, and I only replaced those when Windows Server 2008 was released and I thought that it was time to upgrade my servers.)

Recently I decided to replace my aging Dell desktop computer with a newer model. I'm quite partial to Dell computers, because I've always had great experiences with their computers and their company. I had a chance to buy a refurbished HP P6510F computer for a great price, so I decided to take a chance with HP since that particular computer model had a lot of great reviews.

When the computer arrived I did what I always do - I reformatted the hard drive and I installed a brand new copy of Windows from scratch. (I have to do this because all computer companies - HP, Dell, Gateway, etc. - install a bunch of useless garbage software whenever you buy one of their new computers.) The computer ran fine for several weeks, but I'm a person that likes to keep their computer up-to-date, so this past weekend I browsed to HP's website to see if there were any updates.

Upgrading the BIOS

As it turns out, there was a new version of their BIOS that was supposed to resolve issues when waking the computer from sleep mode if you have more than 4GB of memory. I only had 4GB of RAM in the computer, but I was already shopping for another 4GB, so it seemed prudent to install the BIOS update. I downloaded the update and ran their installer. After a couple of minutes a dialog box popped up saying that the update had applied successfully and I needed to reboot my computer, which I did.

That's when everything started to go wrong.

All Heck Breaks Loose

When my computer restarted it immediately hit the infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD); something very much like the following illustration:

A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to
prevent damage to your computer.

If this is the first time you've seen this Stop error screen,
restart your computer. If this screen appears again, follow
these steps:

Check for viruses on your computer. Remove any newly installed
hard drives or hard drive controllers. Check your hard drive
to make sure it is properly configured and terminated.
Run CHKDSK /F to check for hard drive corruption, and then
restart your computer.

Technical information:

*** STOP: 0x0000007B (0xFFFFF880009A9928,0xFFFFFFFFC0000034,
0x0000000000000000,0x0000000000000000)

It didn't matter how many times I tried to reboot, I still got the BSOD. I knew that BIOS updates changed some of the settings, so my natural suspicion was to assume that something in the new BIOS settings was causing the problem. I tweaked a few settings like disabling hardware virtualization and such - but there was still no joy in Mudville. After this I started to assume that perhaps the BIOS updated hadn't actually applied successfully, so I started trying to see if I could get my computer to boot from one of my several WinPE-based utility CD-ROMs and reapply the patch, but all of those also fell victim to the vicious BSOD.

I'll spare you the details of everything else that I tried - both hardware and software - but I finally gave up and decided to call HP's 24x7 technical support number.

The Technical Support Nightmare Begins

For geeks like me, having to call technical support is humiliating enough, but it's made so much worse by having to deal with front-line technical support people. Having spent 10 years in technical support myself, I have a great deal of patience with technical support engineers, but it can still be an aggravating experience. I spent the next half-hour answering mundane questions and following every instruction from HP's Tier 1 technical support script - all of which I had tried before. (At least the parts that actually applied to my situation.) I'm sure that the engineer with whom I was working meant well, but it was clear that she was floundering.

After a while she began to tell me that I didn't need the BIOS patch and that this was all my fault, to which I replied that she was correct - I didn't actually need the BIOS patch right now, but I would need it in the future, but that didn't really matter - the BIOS patch should not cause the BSOD. Besides - I always updated the BIOS in my Dell computers with no problems. (There's a good jab at HP to try yourself sometime.) Then she started to tell me that since I had a different version of Windows than HP had installed on my computer, the BIOS patch was not compatible. I asked her incredulously, "Do you mean to tell me that HP expects their customers to never install a new version of Windows?" She hesitated before replying "No," and then I reiterated my earlier assertion that no matter what, the BIOS patch should not cause the BSOD.

Then she began to tell me that I needed to purchase a system restore DVD from HP to rebuild my system. I was quick to point out that doing so would reformat my hard drive - thereby erasing all of my files - and that I was willing to bet that the problem wouldn't go away since the system restore DVD was probably not going to reset the BIOS back to an earlier version. So in my estimation I would be wasting my money and my time on a suggestion that would ultimately achieve nothing. This is where I lost her - she had no idea what I meant; so after more than an hour of basic troubleshooting with Tier 1 support and lots of time spent on hold, my patience was finally gone, and I asked to speak with someone in HP's Tier 2 support.

The Technical Support Nightmare Continues

I was transferred to a guy in Tier 2 support who discussed my predicament with me, and he seemed to have a much better handle on things. One of the first things that he did was verify that there was no reason that the BIOS update shouldn't work with my version of Windows, to which I replied that I had been trying to tell the earlier engineer the same thing. We looked at several settings, but the problem persisted, and then he suggested that I needed to purchase a system restore DVD from HP to rebuild my system. I restated my earlier claim that I would be wasting my money and my time since I was 99.9% sure that the system restore DVD would not roll back the BIOS version, so he put me on hold while he checked on that.

When he came back he informed me that the system restore DVD would not roll back the BIOS version, so I needed to return the computer to HP in order for them to reset the computer's BIOS to the original factory version. He pointed out that this would be free since the computer was under warranty, and he took my address so HP could send me a box in order to send the computer back to HP for repairs. Once all that was taken care of, we hung up.

My total time on the phone was about two hours. Ugh.

Problem Resolved

The next day I went out to lunch with my good friend, Wade Hilmo, and I related my experience to him. Once I described the symptoms he said, "I'll bet the BIOS update changed the mode for your SATA controller. Switch it from IDE to AHCI or vice-versa and the problem should go away."

Darn. I should have thought of that. ;-]

Sure enough, when I got home that night and I pulled up my BIOS settings, the SATA mode was set to RAID; I switched it to IDE and the BSOD went away. Once I knew what the problem was I found the following Microsoft Knowledge Base article that allowed me to enable AHCI:

Error message when you start a Windows 7 or Windows Vista-based computer after you change the SATA mode of the boot drive: "STOP 0x0000007B INACCESSABLE_BOOT_DEVICE"

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/922976

My thanks to Wade for pointing that out, but Wade's follow-up comment was apropos, "I'm still a bit surprised that neither of the HP folks suggested it." So I decided that I should call HP and let them know what it took to fix the problem.

Back to Technical Support

The next day I called HP Customer Care to have them cancel my open work ticket, which was the polite thing to do since the problem was resolved. Having taken care of that, I thought that I'd give their technical support people the details of what caused the issue and how to fix it. Having worked in technical support, I always liked to know what it took to resolve an issue.

This seemed like such a good idea at the time, but it didn't turn out that way. When I called HP's Customer Care folks transferred the call to their technical support people, one of their idiots support engineers put me on hold for 20-30 minutes while he read the case notes.

Are you kidding me? It doesn't take 20-30 minutes to read the case notes, even if you're in your first year of Hooked on Phonics.

Once he took me off hold, I was pleading with him to listen to my explanation that the problem was already resolved and it was not caused by whatever stupid idea kept popping out of his wild imagination - I just wanted to share the details of how to resolve the issue if another customer calls in with the same problem, which is undoubtedly going to happen. I pointed out that I was trying to help HIM, for Pete's sake, and he just wouldn't listen. (I started hoping that HP was recording the call.)

After all that, I made it abundantly pretty clear that what he did was very unprofessional, and I asked to speak to a manager. He informed me that he'd see if a manager was available - then he put me back on hold. Fortunately I was calling from work where I have a headset for my telephone, this way I could keep working while I was on hold. (Otherwise this would have really aggravated me.)

After another 20-30 minutes I realized that this idiot engineer was not going to find a manager, he was waiting for me to hang up and go away. So I decided to put that call on hold and try to call back into technical support, but my @#$% LG-Nortel phone won't let me call a phone number if I already have that number on hold. Argh. While I was browsing HP's website to see if I could locate a different phone number for technical support I accidently hung up the original call.

Crap, crap, crap.

So I called HP again and I got another engineer - and I asked to speak to a manager right off the bat. I profusely apologized to the new engineer, and I stated emphatically that it was nothing that he did. He asked for my name and such, but I told him that I had a support ticket number and I gave him that instead. Then I started to explain what happened with the other idiot and how I resolved the issue, but this new engineer attempted to defend the earlier idiot engineer and started to change the subject. I politely cut him off and simply pointed out that the first guy took 30 minutes to read the case notes, whereas he took less than 30 seconds - even this guy had to admit that the first guy's behavior was uncalled for.

Cutting the rest of the story short, I did finally tell the new engineer what it took to fix the problem, which was simply resetting the SATA configuration back to the pre-update BIOS value. I also gave him the information about how to enable AHCI using Microsoft's KB 922976. He thanked me for the information, and after he tried unsuccessfully to upsell me on a new warranty for my computer we ended the call.

Closing Remarks

So there you have it - a thoroughly bad HP customer support experience. If either Hewlett or Packard somehow manage to read this blog, they should be ashamed on behalf of their employees. I'd give you the names of those employees, but no one that I talked to had a name that I could pronounce.

 

Of course, I never did get to speak to a manager at HP.

Posted: Mar 22 2011, 23:26 by Bob | Comments (1)
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Disabling Local Loopback Checks on Web Servers that Run IIS

I've run into this situation more times that I can count: I set up a new web server and no matter what I do, I cannot log into websites on the server that require authentication while I am browsing to them from the console. I used to pull my hair out over this problem until I discovered the problem is in the Windows Local Security Authority (LSA) and it can be easily remedied.

  1. Open your registry editor by going to Start –> Run and enter regedit and click OK.
  2. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa in the registry editor.
  3. Right-click Lsa, click on New and select DWORD value.
  4. Enter DisableLoopbackCheck and press Enter.
  5. Right-click DisableloopbackCheck and select Modify.
  6. In the Value data box, enter 1 and click OK.
  7. Reboot your server.

Several years later someone wrote the following KB article that includes this fix with a description of the problem, as well as an alternate workaround:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/896861

HTH

Posted: Dec 16 2010, 18:09 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Windows 7 Hotkeys

I put together this list for my brother when Windows 7 launched. I got the information from a variety of sources, thereby living up to the old adage that "Copying from one person is plagiarism, copying from a hundred people is research." Some of these are new to Windows 7, while others have been around a little while. In any event, here are some notes that explain how to interpret the keystrokes:

  • A plus symbol (+) between keys means to press the keys at the same time, whereas a comma (,) between keys means to press the keys one after another.
  • [Right] text stands for the right cursor key, [Left] for the left cursor key, etc.

Taskbar Modifiers

Shift+Click Open a new instance of the program
Ctrl+Click Cycle between windows in a group
Middle Click Open a new instance of the program
Ctrl+Shift+Click Open a new instance of the program as Administrator
Shift+Right-Click Show window menu

Managing Windows

Alt+F4 Close the active window
Alt+Tab Switch to previous active window
Alt+Esc Cycle through all open windows
Win+Tab Flip 3D
Ctrl+Win+Tab Persistent Flip 3D
Win+T Cycle through applications on taskbar (showing its live preview)
Win+M Minimize all open windows
Win+Shift+M Undo all window minimization
Win+D Toggle showing the desktop
Win+P Open the projection menu (generally used for laptops connected to projectors)
Win+[Up] Maximize the current window
Win+[Down] If the current window is maximized, restore it; if the current window is restored, minimize it
Win+[Left] Dock the current window to the left half of the screen
• If it is already docked left, it is moved to the right half of the screen
• If it is already docked right, it is restored to its original size
Win+[Right] Dock the current window to the right half of the screen
• If it is already docked right, it is moved to the left half of the screen
• If it is already docked left, it is restored to its original size
Win+Shift+[Left] Move current window to the left monitor (with dual monitors)
Win+Shift+[Right] Move current window to the right monitor (with dual monitors)
Win+Home Minimize all but the current window
Win+Space Peek at the desktop
Win+[Plus sign] Zoom in
Win+[Minus sign] Zoom out

Starting Programs

Win+1 Open the first program on your Quick Launch bar
Win+2 Open the second program on your Quick Launch bar
Win+n Open the nth program on your Quick Launch bar
Win+U Open the ease of access center
Win+F Open the search window
Win+X Open the Mobility Center
Win+E Open Explorer
Win+R Open the Run window
Win+B Move focus to notification tray (the right-most portion of the taskbar)
Win+Pause Open the System Properties portion from the Control Panel
Ctrl+Shift+Esc Open Windows Task Manager

Logging In And Out

Win, [Right], Enter Shutdown
Win, [Right], [Right], R Restart
Win, [Right], [Right], S Sleep
Win, [Right], [Right], H Hibernate
Win, [Right], [Right], W Switch Users
Win+L Locks computer

Viewing Folders With Explorer

Alt+[Left] Go back
Alt+[Right] Go forward
Alt+[Up] Go up a directory
Alt+D Move focus to address bar
Alt+D, Tab Move focus to search bar
Alt+Enter Open the Properties window of the current selection
Ctrl+Mousewheel Change the view type (extra large, small, list view, detail, etc.)
Alt+P Show/hide the preview pane
Posted: May 02 2010, 03:15 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Batch File: Delete Duplicate Files

Using this Batch File

Some time ago a friend of mine gave me a bunch of JPG files, but for some reason she had two copies of every image in the collection. The names of the images had all been randomized, and since there were hundreds of files in the collection it would have taken hours to find and delete the duplicates. With that in mind, I wrote the following batch file that loops through the collection of files and does a binary comparison to find and delete duplicate files.

To use the example code, copy the batch file code from below into Notepad and save it as "_del_dupes.cmd" in the folder where you have duplicate files

Note: As with many utilities that I write - this is a destructive operation, meaning that it will delete files without prompting, so you should always make a backup just in case something goes terribly wrong... ;-]

Batch File Example Code

@echo off

dir *.jpg /b > _del_dupes.1.txt

for /f "delims=|" %%a in (_del_dupes.1.txt) do (
   if exist "%%a" (
      dir *.jpg /b > _del_dupes.2.txt
      for /f "delims=|" %%b in (_del_dupes.2.txt) do (
         if not "%%a"=="%%b" (
            echo Comparing "%%a" to "%%b"...
            fc /b "%%a" "%%b">NUL
            if errorlevel 1 (
               echo DIFFERENT
            ) else (
               echo SAME
               del "%%b"
            )
         ) 
      ) 
   )
)

del _del_dupes.?.txt
Posted: Dec 24 2008, 14:27 by Bob | Comments (3)
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Testing IIS 7 for Yourself

The momentum for IIS 7 is gradually building, and I keep seeing great things in the press and several blogs about it. You can read a few details below:

IIS 7 contains a number of great features, and there are a couple of ways that you can get your hands on it for testing without installing the Vista or Longhorn Beta:

Have fun!

Posted: Oct 30 2006, 15:39 by Bob | Comments (0)
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